07 January 2011

My own personal NoWriYe

It took going away for a month and then coming back and re-reading, but my last post made me notice something:

I spent beaucoup (that's pronounced "boo-coo," with both syllables stressed equally) bucks and two years on a master's degree, and in the last six months I've dropped most of the good habits that program helped me form.

Years ago, I wrote a lengthy Longstockings post full of advice to beginning writers: to write, if not every day, at least more days than not; to find a community of writers; to read extensively, both the kinds of books you want to write and books about the craft of writing. So why wasn't I following any of my own advice? Why was I disregarding so much of what I'd worked so hard and paid so much to learn?

Fortunately, I am old enough to know that the secret to life is not never getting blown off-course--it's getting back on course once you realize you're lost. And fortunately part ii, my personal revelation came at New Year's Resolution time, when the young (ok, middle-aged) writer's thoughts turn to renewed determination and better work habits.

I checked off my first completed resolution on 3 January, when I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I'd been a member in New York, but let my membership lapse when I moved to London. Fortunately, it turns out they have a British Isles chapter. I'm now a member, and have joined the "11+ Realistic" online critique group (second resolution crossed off!). I'm also looking forward to attending masterclasses and events in their professional series, and meeting some fellow kidlit folks in person.

I have also, over the past few weeks, built a kid/teen TBR pile that is threatening to take over my living room.

All that remains is the part that is most firmly in my power: I have to get my butt in front of my manuscript, as often as possible.

So far, I've managed that in a paradoxical way. I used to tell myself, "you need to write 1,000/1,500/2,000 words the next time you sit down at your MS." A lot of weeks, this meant that I had maybe one good writing day a week, and six days of avoiding writing.

In 2011 I've managed to just tell myself, "you need to write something in your manuscript today." One day it was 30 words. At another time have such a poor showing would have made me wonder, "why did I even bother opening Scrivener?"

But you know what? My excitement level about my WIP has skyrocketed this week. I've found myself jotting down ideas at all sorts of odd times, like out on a date with my husband. I've solved--or at least ameliorated--a couple of significant problems with the manuscript. I'm living with my WIP these days, where for the past few months I've just been working on it.

This is the start of my Novel Writing Year. If my habits improve the way I hope they will, I'll write more than one novel before 2012. Probably not two, but at least one-and-a-bit.

Who else is rededicating yourselves to your art for the new year? What resolutions are you following to make that happen?


  1. I'm taking the same approach to job search in particular and life in general--don't try to figure out what to do first, 2nd and 3rd. Just get things done and the rest will likely sort itself out.

  2. I find your post very timely and honest! I'm in my thesis semester in the MFA Creative Writing Program at The New School. I'm also a teaching assistant there, and I am updating our alumni website.

    I've been a little disheartened since during my search (a one-by-one Google search of list of over 900 names), many can't be located. Most don't have websites, some have articles and essays floating around, and even fewer have published mainstream. There are a large number on career paths, and have made cool accomplishments as well.

    I found myself wondering, what happened? Change of heart? Frustration? Life?

    When I got to your name, I was pleased to read your post. It's good to see how you are attacking the same struggles. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Keysha, thanks for your comment! I'm glad you liked the post. Good luck with your thesis!